Comics Lowdown: Political cartoonist arrested

Plus: IDW stumbles, SyFy makes a list, and Darryl Cunningham draws another science comic.

Political Cartoonist Arrested: Government authorities in the African country of Equatorial Guinea arrested political cartoonist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé on September 16 and are reportedly preparing criminal defamation charges against him, according to Human Rights Watch. Equatorial Guinea’s defamation law, which dates back to its days as a Spanish colony, makes it a crime to criticize the president or other government officials. Ebalé, who no longer lives in Equatorial Guinea but was visiting to renew his passport, frequently caricatures President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; he visited the U.S. in 2016 to distribute his book, Obi’s Nightmare, which imagines what the president’s life would be like if he had to live as an ordinary person in his country.

25 of the Best: The SyFy folks have done the research (presumably!) and come up with a list of the 25 best comics writers of the past 25 years. If nothing else, this gives everyone something to argue about!

A Cartoonist in Nazi Germany: Elke Schulze profiles the 20th-century German artist Erich Ohser, whose charming father-and-son cartoons belie the difficult times in which he lived. Ohser rose to prominence in the 1930s and although he opposed Nazism, he took a job at Joseph Goebbels’s paper in order to stay out of the army. Ohser regarded himself as a patriotic German and thought he could wait out the Third Reich, but he was sentenced to death for ridiculing Hitler and the Nazis and committed suicide the night before his hearing. New York Review Comics recently published a collection of Father and Son, and this article was adapted from the afterword.

Interviews and Profiles

Hard Times: Phil Hester talks about the “worst year of my life,” in which his vision began to deteriorate—the problem has been diagnosed and is being fixed, but it was tough going for a while.

Transitions: Clem Martini discusses The Unravelling, a graphic memoir of his family’s experiences as his mother’s dementia took her farther from them—and from her role as his brother Olivier’s caretaker. Olivier, who has schizophrenia, is the artist for the project, which is the brothers’ third collaboration; their first book, Bitter Medicine, which centered on their brother Ben’s suicide, won the W.O. Mitchell Book Prize.

Religion and Comics: On the Vodka O’Clock podcast, comics creator and scholar A. David Lewis talks about Muslim characters in comics, his own conversion to Islam, and his comic, Kismet.

Ermagherd! At Good Comics for Kids, I had a lighthearted interview with Jeremy Lambert and Chris Fenoglio, who are the creators behind the new Goosebumps comics debuting soon from IDW.

Science and Comics: Darryl Cunningham talks about his new book, Graphic Science, a collection of graphic biographies of little-known, but important, scientists.

Reviews, Roundups, and Commentary

Yuri on My Mind: Erica Friedman writes about mental instability in yuri (lesbian) manga, from 1938 to the present; this essay is one of a series on yuri manga.

War Is Hell—Literally: Sean Kleefeld reviews the first four volumes of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen.

The Biz

Robbing the Cartoon Bank: In the 1990s The Cartoon Bank was a thriving business, run by Bob Mankoff (then the New Yorker cartoon editor) that sold cartoons for reproduction, original art, and licensed products based on rejected New Yorker cartoons. It created a nice passive revenue stream for cartoonists, some of whom took in thousands of dollars a month from these sales. And then, as Seth Simons describes in Paste Magazine, Conde Nast (the parent company of the New Yorker) acquired it and basically ran it into the ground. Sales are way down, the company takes a bigger cut, and no one at The Cartoon Bank seems to understand how cartoon marketing works—all of which is bad news for the cartoonists who, to be frank, need the money more than Conde Nast does.

IDW Takes a Dip: IDW saw a 5% drop in publishing revenues in the third quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year. That translates to a $751,000 drop in revenue, which they explain as a combination of an overall drop in comics sales and the “disruption” caused by switching distributors from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House.

Manhua Boom? The Chinese publisher Tencent has begun distributing digital comics for North American readers via the Tapas webcomic site. The supernatural romance Fox Spirit Matchmaker is already available on the site (the first chapter is free) and others, including the monster-action series Book of Yaoguai, are on the way.

Retailing: Drawn and Quarterly isn’t just a publisher, it’s also a retailer, and their Montreal bookstore Librarie Drawn and Quarterly just celebrated its 10th anniversary. D&Q publisher Peggy Burns talks about how the bookstore came about—the publisher’s staff had noticed that most stores carried either books in French or books in English, not both, and that local books were hard to find.

Retailing: Dan Gearino and Dick Swan take a walk down memory lane to the year 1969 and the San Jose comics shop Comics World, through the portal of a really cool old photo.

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